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Encouraging young readers

May 31, 2012

Question: I'd like some suggestions about ways to encourage my young children to read through play. -- For Fun

Answer: Rachel Payne, coordinator of Children's and Family Services for the Brooklyn Public Library, has these great suggestions of activities and books to accompany each activity. According to her, playing with your child is not only fun, it's one of the most important ways you can encourage development. As your children's first teacher, you are helping them develop literacy skills. You don't need expensive toys, just imagination and your children's favorite playmate -- YOU!

A recent study of 1- to 2-year-olds found that those who played with blocks with their parents for 20 minutes a day scored 15 percent higher on language-development tests and were 80 percent less likely to watch television. Letters and words are made up of shapes. The more a child plays with the shapes found in blocks, play dough and other materials, the better able he or she will be to understand the shapes of letters and words. Below are some fun activities and books to help get you started:

Cereal Box Blocks

Use empty cereal and food boxes by stuffing them with newspaper and taping the flaps closed. Line them up like dominoes to knock down or build a tower. You also can talk about the pictures and letters on the boxes.

--Book pairing: "Not a Box," by Antoinette Portis

Let's Go Shopping!

You also can use empty food boxes to set up a grocery with children who are ready for pretend play. Get shopping bags or baskets, play money and a shoebox for a cash register. Make a shopping list with your child. Take turns being the cashier or customer.

--Book pairing: "Feast for 10," by Cathryn Falwell

Edible Play dough

Mix one part flour, two parts oatmeal and one part water in a bowl. Give your child a small piece to explore. Add some utensils, measuring spoons, cups, bowls and jar lids. Label the shapes your child is making ("You made a circle ..."). You can encourage older children to make letters or shapes.

--Book pairing: "Clay Boy." by Mirra Ginsburg, Jos. A. Smith (illustrator)

Question: What can I do to help prepare my young children to become readers? -- Worried

Answer: If you have preschoolers, don't overlook nursery rhymes in your effort to put them on the reading path. First of all, children enjoy hearing the rhythm of the words, which gives them an appreciation for the joy of reading. Nursery rhymes are also short and have enough action to get and keep children's attention. Furthermore, because there is so much repetition in these rhymes, your children soon will be able to anticipate what comes next and to pretend read. Your children also are learning rhymes that are universally known.

Encourage your children to memorize some of the popular rhymes by repeatedly saying the rhymes with them. Learning these rhymes is an excellent way for them to learn how to memorize material. Start with rhymes that have accompanying hand gestures, as they make learning rhymes easier.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, in care of Mahoning Valley Parent, 1 North Illinois Street No. 2004, Indianapolis, IN 46



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